Household employers in New York should be aware of new protections that have been extended to their workers under the state’s Human Rights Law. Also, household employees in New York City will have additional rights under the city’s Human Rights Law beginning on March 12, 2022.
Besides managing payroll and taxes for household employers, GTM Payroll Services offers an additional HR compliance service led by a PHR-certified human resources advisor to help families understand labor law compliance such as these new responsibilities under New York’s Human Rights Laws. Call (800) 929-9213 to learn more.
New York State Human Rights Law
New York Governor Kathy Hochul recently signed an amendment to the state’s Human Rights Law that expands protections for household employees.
Prior to this amendment, nannies, housekeepers, in-home senior caregivers, and other household help were only covered by the Human Rights Law’s (NYSHRL) anti-discrimination protections in certain circumstances.
Now, household workers are considered “employees” for all purposes under the NYSHRL and have full protection of its employment provisions.
Families that employ household help are prohibited from discriminating against their employees due to age, race, creed, color, national origin, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, military status, sex, disability, predisposing genetic characteristics, familial status, marital status, domestic violence victim status, favorably resolved arrest record, or because the worker has opposed any practices forbidden under the NYSHRL or because they have filed a complaint.
In some situations, the household employee’s sex might be considered a bona fide occupational qualification. If something is a bona fide occupational qualification, it means it is essential to performing a job. For example, if an employment position requires personal care for an individual, including bathing, toileting, dressing, or similar activities, an employer might be able to show that a hiring decision based on sex is necessary because of privacy concerns.
While live-in and live-out workers are considered household employees, protections do not extend to those who work for their parents, spouse, or child.
For more information, visit the New York State Division of Human Rights at https://dhr.ny.gov.
New York City Human Rights Law
Beginning on March 12, 2022, employment protections under the New York City Human Rights Law (NYCHRL) will apply to all household employees, “including nannies, home care workers, house cleaners, and any other worker who is employed in a home providing childcare, eldercare, companionship, or housekeeping services.” Most full-time and part-time workers are covered.
Here are some key points for families:
Families can run a limited background check on a job candidate covering information such as employment references, educational history, and criminal convictions. However, families are prohibited from checking or asking about a candidate’s salary history or credit history during the hiring process. Employers also cannot ask about or consider an applicant’s prior arrests, youthful offender adjudications, or sealed convictions.
Families cannot use language in job advertisements that limits employment to household employees of a particular national origin, race, gender, religion, or other protected class.
A family is allowed to provide an honest reference for a household employee, whether good or bad. However, it is illegal retaliation under the NYCHRL for an employer to give a bad reference, or no reference, for a household employee because the worker “objected to discrimination or harassment, requested a reasonable accommodation or filed or otherwise participated in a claim under the NYCHRL.”
Sexual harassment at work is illegal under the NYCHRL. This includes lewd or sexual comments about a worker’s appearance, body, or clothes; pornographic or sexually explicit images, cartoons, or graffiti; unwelcome or inappropriate touching of an employee’s body; threatening to fire a worker or reduce their pay if they refuse a sexual advance; and making sexist or derogatory comments based on gender.
Household employers who sexually harass domestic workers, or who allow their family members or other people in their household to sexually harass domestic workers, are violating the NYCHRL.
Household employers are also required to provide domestic workers with written notice of their rights regarding sexual harassment, post this notice in their home in both English and Spanish, and ensure that their employees receive annual training on the NYCHRL’s protections against gender-based harassment.
GTM Payroll Services offers online sexual harassment prevention training videos that are both New York State and New York City compliant.
It is illegal to fire a household employee because of stereotypes about their age, such as the assumption that older workers are slower or less dedicated to their jobs. However, it is not illegal to counsel, discipline, or fire an employee for objectively poor performance. If an employee’s change in performance is due to a medical condition or disability, they may need an accommodation, such as more time to perform their job tasks. If the worker’s performance does not improve, however, the employer would be justified in letting the worker go, not because of the worker’s age but because of their job performance.
Household employees cannot be treated differently because of characteristics or cultural practices associated with their religion, race, or national origin. This can include head coverings, hairstyles, clothing, or jewelry, as well as accents. Household workers are also entitled to reasonable accommodations for their religious practices, including modifications of dress and grooming codes to allow them to wear head coverings consistent with their religious beliefs. The discomfort of a patient or family member generally will not be sufficient to allow an employer to deny a reasonable accommodation for an employee’s religious beliefs.
Household employers who wish to learn more about their obligations under the NYCHRL should contact the Commission by calling (212) 416-0197 or visit NYC.gov/HumanRights to submit a question, learn more about the NYCHRL, or sign up for a free workshop.
GTM can help
Have questions about complying with labor laws and regulations? Need to understand your rights and responsibilities? GTM offers HR consulting with a PHR-certified human resources advisor. To learn more, including rates, call (800) 929-9213. HR consulting is an additional service to payroll and tax management.
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